Celebrity Endorsements

Companies use a range of methods to promote their brand's products or services. The practice of celebrity endorsement has been used at least since the 1760s, when Josiah Wedgwood, the founder of the Wedgwood pottery in England, used his products' association with royalty to create the feeling of quality about them. Other brands have sought to associate themselves with successful and admired public figures. Through campaigns using television, radio or print, celebrity endorsements have become a standard feature of many advertising campaigns.

Through association, consumers in the target market are led to understand that the product is trusted by the celebrity featured in the advertisement, giving it more credibility. Studies have shown that celebrities endorsing a brand can significantly increase the awareness of that brand and create a memory recall of the product or service. Celebrity endorsement is proven to improve a company's reputation by indicating that it offers high-quality customer services. Key to the success of a celebrity endorsement is the right choice of celebrity for the products or service.

The American automobile manufacturer General Motors spent $40 million over nine years using Tiger Woods, for a long time in that period the world's No.1 golfer, to endorse its vehicles. Woods was dropped in 2008 when GM was reducing its advertising spending. Some in the advertising business questioned GM's choice of Woods, since the golfer was half the age of the average Buick driver, and the multi-millionaire sports star was not credible as someone who might aspire to drive a Buick.

While companies can benefit from positive associations with celebrities, if that celebrity becomes in any manner controversial, it risks damaging the reputation of the products or services which they endorse.

An example of when celebrity endorsements go wrong is in the case of O.J. Simpson, the former American football player and later movie actor. Hertz, the car rental company, used Simpson as the spokesperson for the company and many of its advertising campaigns. When Simpson was accused of murder in 1994, the association worked to the detriment of Hertz, even though Simpson was subsequently cleared of the charges.

Companies using celebrity endorsements usually have a prepared public relations strategy and can take advice from crisis management professionals within the advertising industry. Companies engaging in such endorsements also need to secure exclusivity from the celebrity in all aspects of their lives, and not just when advertising a product. Millions spent on a celebrity endorsement can be undermined if the contracted celebrity is seen using a rival product or service. Companies also need to be prepared to offer long contracts to celebrities, as this creates stability and consistency in the eyes of the consumer.

Wheaties, the long-established U.S. brand of breakfast cereal, has used a range of sports stars on its packets since the 1930s, including baseball players Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and Jackie Robinson, tennis ace Chris Evert in the 1980s, and in the 1990s track sprinter Michael Johnson.

Some associations with celebrity have been so successful that they have seen the goods being bought as a byproduct. In the 1920s, Kodas Cigarettes began including cards with illustrations of leading baseball players in their packs. These baseball cards were intended to be given away as gifts to customers. Yet the cards themselves became so popular that many sales were made for the cards, rather than the cigarettes. Even in to the 21st century, the cards remained precious collectors' items, with a single card being sold by auction on eBay for $1.1 million in 2000.

There was never any known contractual arrangement between Kodas and the subjects on their cards however, and one baseball player, Honus Wagner, took action to prevent a tobacco company using his image to help sell their products.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Diversity in Advertising: Broadening the Scope of Research Directions
Jerome D. Williams; Wei-Na Lee; Curtis P. Haugtvedt.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Fifteen "Moving beyond Race: The Role of Ethnic Identity in Evaluating Celebrity Endorsers" and Chap. Sixteen "Michael Jodan Who? The Impact of Other-Race Contact in Celebrity Endorser Recognition"
Sports Marketing and the Psychology of Marketing Communication
Lynn R. Kahle; Chris Riley.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "The Strategic Use of Celebrity Athlete Endorsers in Print Media: A Historical Perspective" and Chap. 6 "The Effects of Multiple Product Endorsements by Celebrities on Consumer Attitudes and Intentions: An Extension"
From Baseballs to Brassieres: The Use of Baseball in Magazine Advertising, 1890-1960
Hathaway, Ted.
Nine, Vol. 10, No. 1, Fall 2001
It Pays to Be Personal: Baseball and Product Endorsements
Newman, Roberta.
Nine, Vol. 12, No. 1, Fall 2003
To Catch a Tiger or Let Him Go: The Match-Up Effect and Athlete Endorsers for Sport and Non-Sport Brands
Koernig, Stephen K.; Boyd, Thomas C.
Sport Marketing Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 1, March 2009
Concerning the Effect of Athlete Endorsements on Brand and Team-Related Intentions
Carlson, Brad D.; Donavan, D. Todd.
Sport Marketing Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 3, September 2008
Ethics in Modern Management
Gerald J. Williams.
Quorum Books, 1992
Librarian’s tip: "Celebrity Endorsements" begins on p. 119
Entertainment-Education and Social Change: History, Research, and Practice
Arvind Singhal; Michael J. Cody; Everett M. Rogers; Miguel Sabido.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004
Librarian’s tip: "Celebrity Endorsements" begins on p. 99
Celebrity Misrepresentation & the Federal Lanham Act: The Public Fights Back
Hirschfeld, Adam.
St. John's Law Review, Vol. 78, No. 1, Winter 2004
The Celebrity Sell: Advertisers Use Black Celebrity Endorsers to Pump Up Sales. (Special Report)
Alleyne, Sonia.
Black Enterprise, Vol. 33, No. 2, September 2002
Charles Lindbergh and Mobiloil: The New Model for Modern Celebrity Endorsement
Cox, Patrick L.
Journalism History, Vol. 30, No. 2, Summer 2004
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